Sunday, May 26, 2013

Missionary Farewell Talk - Paul


Ohayo Gosai-masu!  Good morning, brothers and sisters.  I’m thankful for this opportunity to stand before you and share some of my thoughts.  It’s great to see so many familiar faces.  I know some of you from when we served together in the Newark 2nd Ward, which included half of Newark and a part of Fremont.  Also many of you have made a tremendous impact in my life and my family over the years.  I am grateful for the great example you have been to me and my family.
I am grateful for the opportunity of serving together with Bishop Anderson, Brother Aquino, Brother Ross, and Brother Yoos.  And would like to congratulate the new Bishopric.  I know that they will do a great job.  Lastly, I am grateful for the great opportunity of serving together with my wife in the Japan Tokyo South Mission.  The “Land of Rising Sun”.  Home of my ancestors.  Returning home since I grew up in Hiroshima from 3 months old to 10 years old.

The gospel proclaimed to the world by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored to the earth in this dispensation and is for the redemption of all mankind.  The Lord himself has revealed what is essential for the salvation and exaltation of his children.  One of these essentials is that temples are to be built for the performance of ordinances that cannot be performed in any other place.

Throughout history, the Lord has commanded His people to build temples.  The Church is working to build temples all over the world to make temple blessings more available for a greater number of Heavenly Father's children.  At the last semi-annual General Conference of the Church in April, 2 additional temples were announced in Cedar City, Utah, and Rio Janeiro, Brazil.  I believe that worldwide there are 140 operating temples and 30 announced or under construction.

The Prophet Joseph Smith spoke about the building of temples:  “What was the object of gathering the Jews, or the people of God in any age of the world?…. The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for these are the certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose…..  It is for the same purpose that God gathers together His people in the Last days, to build unto the Lord a house to prepare them for the ordinances and endowments.”

So what is a temple?
Elder James E. Talmage wrote:  “The term ‘temple’…. Is of restricted and specific meaning….A temple is…a place specially set apart for service  regarded as sacred…  The Latin Templum was the equivalent of the Hebrew Beth Elohim, and signified the abode of Deity; hence, as associated with Divine worship, it meant literally the House of the Lord……A temple is more than chapel or church, more than synagogue or cathedral; it is a structure erected as the house of the Lord, sacred to the closest communion between the Lord himself and the holy priesthood, and devoted to the highest and most sacred ordinances.”

We are blessed to have a beautiful Oakland Temple.   “A great white temple of the Lord will grace those hills, a glorious ensign to the nations.”  This was the prophecy of President George Albert Smith in 1924 when, as a member of the Council of the Twelve, he looked over the San Francisco East Bay hills. 
The site he envisioned was purchased in 1942, and construction of the magnificent five towered Oakland Temple, which commands a sweeping view of the entire Bay area and the Pacific Ocean, began 20 years later in May 1962.  The building is constructed (from base to tower) with sierra white granite.  The center tower is 169 feet high, and four smaller towers, each 95 feet high, are covered with blue glass mosaic and gold leaf.  At night they are illuminated from within.  There are two sculptured panels on the exterior north and south of the temple, one depicting the Savior in Palestine and the other his appearance to the Nephites in America.
It was dedicated November 17, 1964, by President of our Church, David O. McKay, the fifth and last temple he dedicated.

“What ordinances are performed in temples?”

Many Christians believe that at the time of death, our status before the Lord is determined for all eternity.  Christ said to Nicodemus, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

Yet we know that many people have died without the ordinance of baptism, and according to Christ’s statement to Nicodemus, they would be eliminated from entering into the kingdom of God.  Baptism is an earthly ordinance that can be performed only by the living.  Baptism for the dead was practiced by the early Christians.  There was vicarious work for the dead at that time, and there is today.  Today, baptisms are again performed by the living in behalf of individuals who have died, as is also the laying on the hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost for these same deceased people.  These ordinances for the dead are performed only in the Temple, the house of the Lord.

The endowment is another ordinance performed in our temples.  It consists of two parts:  first, a series of instructions, and second, promises or covenants that person receiving the endowment makes ------promises to live righteously and comply with the requirements of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The endowment is an ordinance for the great blessing of the Saints ----- both living and dead.  It is also an ordinance performed by the living in behalf of deceased individuals.

Another temple ordinance is that of celestial marriage, where wife is sealed to husband and husband is sealed to wife for eternity.  We know that civil marriage end at death; but eternal marriages performed in the temple may exist forever.  Children born to a husband and wife after an eternal marriage are automatically sealed to their parents for eternity.  If children are born before the wife is sealed to her husband, there is a temple sealing ordinance that can seal these children to their parents for eternity, and children can be sealed vicariously to parents who have passed away.
In the ordinances of the temple, the foundations of the eternal family are sealed in place.  The Church has the responsibility ----and the authority ---- to preserve and protect the family as the foundation of society.  All of these priesthood temple ordinances are essential for the salvation and exaltation of children of Our Heavenly Father.
We have a great work to do.  We must accomplish the priesthood temple ordinance work necessary for our own exaltation; then we must do the necessary work for those who did not have the opportunity to accept the gospel in this life.  Doing work for others is accomplished in two steps:  first, by family history research to determine our ancestors; and second, by performing the temple ordinances to give them the same opportunities afforded to the living.
There are many members of the Church who have only limited access to the temples.  They pursue family history research and have the temple ordinance work done by others.  Then, there are some members who engage in temple work, but fail to do family history research on their own family lines. Although they perform a divine service in assisting others, they lose a blessing by not seeking their own kindred dead as divinely directed by latter-day prophets.

I have learned that those who engage in family history research and then perform the temple ordinance work for those whose names they have found will know the additional joy of receiving both blessings.
Three (3) months ago, we went to Japan, not only to visit my wife’s sister and her husband who are serving as senior missionaries, but also to do some family history research on my side of family in Hiroshima, Japan.  We visited a Buddhist Temple priest, who keeps a record for the living as well as for those who passed on.  Also we visited two city halls in Hiroshima and Wakayama.  We were really fortunate to uncover 4 generations and 40 ancestors.  We have a lot of temple work to do for them.

Those who passed on are anxiously waiting for us to search out their names and then go to the temples to officiate in their behalf.  The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead.”  He also said:  “This doctrine was the burden of the scriptures.  Those Saints who neglect it in behalf of their deceased relatives, do it at the peril of their own salvation.”

When we attend the temple and perform the ordinances, certain blessings will come to us: 
·      We will receive the spirit of Elijah, which will turn our hearts to our spouse, to our children, and to our ancestors. 
·      We will love our family with a deeper love than we have loved before. 
·      Our hearts will be turned to our fathers and theirs to us. 
·      We will be endowed with power from on high as the Lord has promised.
·      We will receive the key of the knowledge of God.  We will learn how we can be like Him.  Even the power of godliness will be manifest to us.
·      We will be doing a great service to those who have passed to the other side of the veil in order that they might be “judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” (D & C 138:34).

It would please the Lord for every adult member to be worthy of --- and to carry --- a current temple recommend, even if they won’t be able to use them.  The things that we must do and not do to be worthy of a temple recommend are the very things that ensure we will be happy as individuals and as families.
All of our efforts in proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead lead to the holy temple.  This is because the temple ordinances are absolutely crucial; we cannot return to God’s presence without them. 

President Gordon B. Hinckley said:  “Everything that occurs in the temple is eternal in its consequences…. Entering the temple is a privilege to be earned and not a right that automatically goes with Church membership.”

Brothers and Sisters, go to the temple often.  And those that don’t have a current recommend, make a commitment and see your Bishop.  We should go not only for our kindred dead but also for the personal blessing of temple worship.  The temple is a sanctuary from the world.  It is a bit of heaven on earth. 

Let us make the temple, with temple worship and temple covenants and temple marriage, our ultimate earthly goal.  Let us teach and share with our children the spiritual feelings we have in the temple.  Let us seek with all our hearts and find for ourselves and our families, the blessings of the temple, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Missionary Farewell Talk - Gerry

“Your Holy Places”

There’s a Primary song that goes, “I hope they call me on a mission, when I have grown a foot or two.” When I told Judy Wood about our mission call, she said that I would be caught for false advertising. I’m certainly glad that they don’t make mission calls based on height.

How did we begin this page of our lives? Paul and I have always talked about going on a mission when we were retired. When we both retired in 2011, a mission was still in the back of our minds, however, there were a few reasons why we thought we should wait. One of the things that I was having a difficult time with was leaving my grandchildren. (My children were a consideration in there too--however, the grandchildren were a little more prominent.)

Sometime last year I reached the conclusion that I really would be okay being away from them and I was at peace with that. But we still didn’t actively pursue a mission and things were left pretty much status quo. Every once in a while we would talk about it, but with no results.

Then in January of this year, I was reading an article from the Ensign. In this article a young woman was trying to decide whether to go on a mission or not. Then one day in her religion class, her professor said something that changed her life. He said, “The Lord can’t drive a parked car.” That was an aha moment for me. I went to Paul and said, “Paul, we’re parked cars!” Of course he didn’t have any idea what I was talking about. So I explained to him that we have been dragging our feet on deciding when to go on a mission and we have been parked cars that the Lord can’t drive. So we decided that we would leave this fall on a mission. But I think the Lord had other plans.

We went on a trip to Tokyo Japan to visit my younger sister and her husband who are serving a mission there as well as to do family history on Paul’s side of the family. We ended up having an informal interview with the newly called Mission President for the new mission, the Tokyo South Mission. We returned home on March 13, met with the Bishop on March 17 to begin our application process, turned in our papers to the Bishop on April 23, met with President Hodson on April 24, and received our mission call on May 6. We enter the MTC on June 3 and arrive in Japan on June 15. We are no longer parked cars, we are in drive.

Sister Ann Dibb, in the General Young Women Conference earlier this year, gave a talk entitled “Your Holy Places.” She stated that “Holy places include our temples, our chapels, our homes, and the stakes of Zion, which are . . . for a defense, and for a refuge.”

She went on to say that “In addition to these, I believe we can each find many more places. . . . holy places can also include moments in time—moments when the Holy Ghost testifies to us, moments when we feel Heavenly Father’s love, or moments when we receive an answer to our prayers.”

I  began to reflect on some of the holy places that I have experienced.

A holy place moment when the Holy Ghost testifies to us.
I obtained a job working in Washington, D.C. shortly after I graduated from BYU. I was a small town girl from Utah. This was my first time living away from home. I attended a singles ward, with most of its members either working professionally or students working on higher level educational degrees. I didn’t feel like I fit in socially let alone intellectually. It seemed like most people had their own little groups and it was hard to get to know people. In order for me to get to church I either had to take a bus, which took a long time or take a taxi, which could become very expensive over time. I didn’t know anyone nor did I feel comfortable asking someone for a ride. It became an effort to get to church. It would have been so much easier to just not go.

I remember lying on my bed one day thinking, “What am I doing?” And I began having this conversation with myself. I could have very easily decided that no one would miss me if I stopped going to church. It was much easier to just skip church. But I finally came to the conclusion that I would only be hurting myself if I stopped going to church. If things were going to change, then I needed to change. I needed to put forth the effort to find a way to get to church. I needed to get out of my comfort zone and reach out to people even if they weren’t going to reach out to me. And so I did. That was one of the biggest decisions of my life. I probably wouldn’t be standing here today if I didn’t make that decision.

Another holy place that I’ve experienced is at Young Women Camp. At camp you can experience the grandeur and beauty of God’s creations. You are removed from the world and all its trappings and are free to feel the quietness and peace of a dark starry night and the inner strength of daughters (young and old) of our Heavenly Father.

I had been called to be a counselor over a group of 12-year-old girls, which was a very challenging group. There were girls that didn’t get along, girls that were excluded, girls that weren’t happy. I had girls crying every night. I remember leaving my group, finding a big rock that I could hide behind and having a good cry. But through the help of the spirit, you find the words to help comfort the ones that are hurting, show the ones that are causing hurt how they might approach things differently, and in the end helping them all realize that they are a daughter of our Heavenly Father who loves us one and all unconditionally.

A holy place moment when we feel Heavenly Father’s love
As most of you know our grandson, Ethan, who is 8 years old, was born with brittle bone disease. Ethan has been a true inspiration and shining example to those who know him. His mother shared this:

“Ethan cried for Brandon one night after we had put him down.  Brandon went to talk to him.  Ethan told him he couldn't stop thinking about what would happen if he breaks and no one was there.  So Brandon told him, someone will always be around to help.  It breaks my heart to know he is already worrying about stuff like that.  And we thought that was the end of it.  Then a couple of nights later, Ethan called Brandon on his walkie talkie again.  Brandon went upstairs.  Ethan confessed he was reading in the dark, again! He was reading the October Friend, and came across a scripture, D&C 68:6  "Be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you."  He told Brandon that this scripture applies perfectly for what he was worrying about, and he had marked it in his new scriptures he just got, so he can always remember it.  It’s the first scripture passage he marked in his own scriptures.  It’s the answer to his prayers, I am sure!  Needless to say, we are very proud and grateful!”

His mother wrote us one other:

“So we had Ethan’s annual IEP today, and his teacher gave us an update on how Ethan is doing in class.  She shared that they had an assignment in class asking them to write down three things they wished for.  This is what Ethan wrote, ‘I don't wish for anything, because I am happy.  I have a PERFECT life.’   This comes from a child who has constant pain, many fractures, and many surgeries and painful rehabs.”

Ethan realizes that our Heavenly Father loves him and will always be there for him. This is reassuring to him and helps him to have a positive attitude and to be happy. He loves life.

A holy place moment when we receive answers to our prayers
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5

Sister Dibbs stated: “Throughout Joseph Smith’s short but magnificent life, he truly “[stood] in holy places” and was not moved. As a young teenager, he was troubled by the religious turmoil in his community and wanted to know which of all the churches was true. The wooded area close to his home became a holy place as he knelt among the trees and offered his first vocal prayer. His prayer was answered.”

As Paul and I begin this journey together as a couple missionary, we know that we will visit holy places and have holy place moments. We know that this is what we need to do at this time. It will be sad to leave those we love. We know we will miss out on special moments in the lives of our family and friends. But we also know that our family will be blessed.

I’d like to close with the scripture that we have chosen for our plaque, which is found in D&C 76:22:
“And now, after the many testimonies that have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!”

Monday, May 6, 2013

How it all began . . .

It has been a whirlwind experience for my parents. They have been thinking about going on a mission, but didn’t really get serious until they went to visit my aunt and uncle who are serving their mission in Japan. My parents while they were in Japan, had a chance to meet with the mission president who is going be opening the new Tokyo south mission. Little did we know that the mission president and my dad were kindred spirits. So amidst the conversations of their love of the TV show, the Mentalist and tennis, President Wada decided that he wanted my parents to help him open up the mission.

Here is the timeline of events:

February 17 to March 13 – Visit to Japan

March 17 – Met with the Bishop to begin the application process

April 23 – Turned in mission papers

April 24 – Met with Stake President Hodson

May 6 – Received their Mission call to Tokyo Mission, not Tokyo South since it isn’t opened yet

June 3 – Entered the Missionary Training Center (MTC)

June 15– Arrived in Tokyo to begin the preparations to open the mission

Family picture
Mom, Dad, Auntie Carolyn & Uncle Ken
Mom, Dad, Judy & Orion Wood
For those who weren't able to make it to the farewell, the next posts are from their talks that they gave at church.

Mom, Dad, President & Sister Hodson